WHAT IS A NERVE IMPINGEMENT?
Nerve impingement occurs when severe external pressure is applied continuously or repetitively on a nerve, either from surrounding tissues or from outside the body, causing nerve damage and dysfunction. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common form of nerve entrapment, in which the median nerve is compressed/pinged by tendons and soft tissues of the wrist.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF NERVE IMPINGEMENT?
Most nerve impingement patients experience the following:
- Numbness or lack of sensation in the area of skin supplied by the impinged nerve
- Burning pain in the affected area which may spread with time
- Constant or intermittent tingling sensation, especially at night.
- Weakness of muscles supplied by the impinged nerve
WHAT ARE THE COMMON CAUSES OF NERVE IMPINGEMENT?
Some conditions which increase your risk for nerve impingement include:
- Works requiring repetitive joint movements e.g. secretaries have increased the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Women seem to be at higher risk for nerve impingement
- Injuries after some fracture or trauma
- Presence of Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic Kidney disease
NERVE IMPINGEMENT DIAGNOSIS
Your doctor may confirm a nerve impingement diagnosis after conducting one or more of the following tests:
NERVE CONDUCTION STUDY: This allows the study of your nerves’ electrical integrity to help pinpoint the impingement site and to assess the degree of nerve injury or damage.
ELECTROMYOGRAPHY (EMG): In this procedure, your doctor inserts a transdermal needle electrode into certain muscles to assess the electrical activity during contraction and rest. This provides additional information to the nerve conduction studied and provide further localizing and prognostic information about your condition. It also helps to rule out alternate diagnoses such as nerve root illness, which can be mistaken for nerve impingements.
ULTRASOUND OR MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI): This allows for close analysis of the bones, tendons and other tissues surrounding and impinging on your nerves.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR NERVE IMPINGEMENT?
Fortunately, most patients make a full recovery from nerve impingement after allowing the afflicted muscles, tendons, and joints to recover with the help of and other conservative therapies. However, there are other people that might require some other more aggressive and prolonged treatments.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain, but they must be used with caution owing to the potential consequences. Furthermore, in certain severe situations, corticosteroid injections may give minimal pain relief and local inflammation control.
A physical therapist will be able to teach you some pain-relieving treatments such as splinting and exercises to stretch your muscles and nerves. You will also be given guidance on how to improve your posture and avoid certain physical activities that might aggravate your condition.
If your nerve impingement is severe and does not improve after exploring the aforementioned treatment options, your doctor may consider surgery to relieve nerve pressure by making specific incisions in the surrounding tissue. These are typically known as decompression surgeries.